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Trump Bans Travelers From Some European Countries To The U.S.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Rachel, let's talk more about the White House response to the coronavirus here. I want to bring in NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, who is at the White House. Hi, Franco. Franco, you with us?

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hello.

GREENE: Hey. I want to talk a little bit more about the White House response here. Scott Horsley was just talking about the White House doing some cleanup in some of the confusion last night. And Vice President Mike Pence was doing several interviews trying to clarify the message. He was on Fox. And he reiterated the president's claims that Europe was responsible for some new coronavirus cases in the U.S. This is it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Yesterday, as of the 35 cases where we had coronavirus cases, about 30 of those states - 35 states - 30 of those states actually could trace the contact to someone in Europe.

GREENE: Can you explain exactly what we're hearing here and the connection that the White House is making to Europe?

ORDOÑEZ: David, I'll do my best.

GREENE: OK.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, the president says the measures are necessary to protect Americans, but he didn't go into specific details. As you noted, Pence tried to explain a little bit more. He said that U.S. experts recommended that the travel restrictions go in place based on contract tracing of new cases in the United States. What that means is that clusters found in the United States can be traced back to Europe. But he also didn't give a lot of specific details. We may find out more today, though, when doctors Anthony Fauci of the NIH as well as Robert Redfield of the CDC go to the Hill. They are likely to be questioned a great deal on this issue.

Pence did say this was only part of the measures that they're taking. He said they are also focused on aggressive guidance that's being given to communities that are impacted. That includes postponing and canceling events and gatherings. And I'll also just note that the - pardon me - the European Union is pushing back against these travel measures, and they're pushing back hard, saying this is a fight that needs to be fought with cooperation and not unilateral action.

GREENE: I mean, we should say, President Trump and his administration have come under a lot of criticism for sending mixed signals throughout this entire crisis. It doesn't seem like he did much to fix that with this speech last night. He did, though, Franco lay out some proposals for how to shore up the economy. What exactly is he talking about?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah. He said he's taken steps to help workers who are sick or need to be quarantined. Trump said he would defer tax payments for individuals and businesses in certain impacted areas. And he's looking to provide billions in loans for small businesses and calling on Congress to consider a payroll tax holiday. But as you noted, you know, he's sending mixed signals, and those proposals actually have done little to calm global stock markets.

GREENE: He's making some calls for Congress to act. And we heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking about the coronavirus crisis this morning. Here's a bit of what she had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: It's like the house is on fire. People are concerned about their, of course, their health and the health of their children. If they are losing their jobs because nobody is coming to the restaurant or whatever it is, then we have to be there with some help for them.

GREENE: Obviously Pelosi is saying that something needs to be done, the president saying something needs to be done. Are they in agreement? I mean, what kind of reception are the president's proposals getting on the Hill?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, they're in agreement that something needs to be done, as as we just heard. But the reality is they're not on the same page. The administration has received very little buy-in from Democrats, particularly on this matter of a payroll tax cut. The big question is how the administration plans to pay for something that is so expensive such as suspending these taxes. And House Democrats, they have introduced their own bill to combat the economic impacts. They did it last night. But now, actually, the issue's on pause as the speaker tries to negotiate a deal with the administration or negotiate some changes at least.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez this morning. Franco, thanks so much.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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